The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a UNESCO world heritage site, located just 180Kms west of Arusha. The conservation area is administered by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area authority, a wing of the Tanzanian government. The reason for this piece of paradise being called a conservation area is its multiple land use plans where people, in this case the indigenous Maasai and their cattle, are allowed to live alongside the wild animals in harmony, the first example of its kind in the world! The conservation area, covering an area of 8292 sq. Kms was made a man and biosphere reserve in 1971 and a world heritage site by 1979.
The jewel of the NCA however is the legendary Ngorongoro crater. Formed some 2.5 million years ago from an enormous explosion of magma that caused the once enormous volcano on the western flank of the rift valley to implode under its own weight, the Ngorongoro crater (caldera), at 600 meters deep, 20 kilometers wide and covering an area of 264 sq. kilometers is the largest unbroken, unflooded caldera in the world. With an abundant wildlife population of up to 25,000 to 30,000 large mammals including the rare Black rhinos, huge prides of lions, the elusive leopard and gigantic tuskers, the crater is one of the few places in the country where the big five can all be easily viewed in a day.
Covering only 3% of the entire conservation area, the crater is usually what most visitors get to see of the NCA though there is much more besides. In the west lie the extensive Salei plains, part of the stomping and calving grounds for the annual wildebeest migration. At the end of the plains lies the Olduvai Gorge, “the cradle of mankind”, where the legendary 2 million year old Homo habilis was unearthed.
To the northeast are two small craters, the Olmoti and Empakaai which together form the crater highlands. Both are very rich in wildlife yet both see a very limited number of visitors each year. There are the shifting sands, elegant black sand dunes some 15 kilometers northwest of Olduvai gorge, that move a little each year in the same direction (roughly 15m in an eastward direction), leaving one wondering at the marvels of nature. All this makes Ngorongoro Tanzania’s most visited wildlife area, a place that enchants, and few leave the place disappointed.